Conversation with my mother, or, why I dread it

December 21, 2011

in therapy in session

The phone rang. At this hour I knew it has got to be from my mother.

What does she want this time? Is always my first thought. Then I feel guilty about it. More often than not, however, I get to stop feeling guilty because she is calling to add to my shopping list called “Shit to bring home to my families because that’s what you do when you are a Chinese living abroad and you welcome all ways to help assuage your guilt”.

Mom: What are you doing?

Me: Nothing. Putting the kids to bed.

Mom: I am calling to confirm the date and time when you arrive at the airport. Is it 10 pm on December 27?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Ok. … … … What are you doing?

Me: Yelling at the kids to take a bath.

Mom: Why are you always doing that when I call?

Me: Because you always call around this time?

Mom: Oh. Ha ha. Have you eaten yet?

Me: No.

Mom: What time is it now? How come you have not eaten yet? [Then why did you ask me in the first place?!] What are you going to eat?

Me: I don’t know. I am thinking of Ramen noodles.

Mom: What kind? Is it the Korean spicy kind?

This went on for a while. Then my mom repeated the same story she’d told me twice already.

Mom: So and so’s daughter is married to a foreigner too. Her grandson is so cute. Mixed kid, you know. And oh, he’s so adorable when he speaks Chinese. Oh yes, her daughter teaches the boy Chinese at home.

Me: … … …

Mom: Oh, yes, he speaks perfect Chinese.

Me: … … …

Mom: And they are back in Taiwan now.

Me: … … …

Mom: She also just went on a tour around the world [ok, probably not around the world…] with her daughter and her son-in-law. Oh. They took her everywhere.

Me: … … …

Mom: And her daughter is back in Taiwan now with her grandson.

Me: … … …

Mom: Hello? Are you still there? Why aren’t you saying anything?

Me [sighing silently]: So let me guess. Her daughter does not work. [Maybe the bitterness in my voice came through]

Mom [relenting]: Oh right. You have a job. My daughter is so smart and capable. [This was said without sarcasm. My mother does not do sarcasm. I don’t think she knows how.]

Me [wanting to die]: Ok. So why are you telling me about your friend who I do not know. You have told me this a few times.

Mom: Ha ha ha.

[I hate it so much when she says something that bothers me etc, then she tries to cover it up by saying, “I was just joking. You need to lighten up.” Well, no, mom, you were not joking. I have never heard you joke in my whole life.]

Mom: I was just telling you about my friend. You have to be very careful and not overdo it on the computers. She’s so near-sighted that she’s almost blind because she’s spent all her working years on the computer.

Me: Ok.

Mom: Not good to get too high a degree.

[You don’t need a subject when constructing a sentence in Chinese. IMO this greatly contributes to Chinese mothers’ passive aggressive ability because you never know whom they are referring to in their laments. It could be nobody. Yet it could be everybody.]

Mom: So smart. What’s the use? Get a degree and leave and not come back.

Me [bracing myself for the impact]: … … …

Mom: Just like my daughter, right?

Me [really wanting to die now]: … … …

Mom: Now just counting the days until my daughter comes home again.

Me [Must. Pretend. I. Did. Not. Hear. This. Because. There. Is. Nothing. I. Can. Do.] … … …

Mom: Alrighty then. You must be tired. Have you eaten yet?

Me: No.

Mom: Why not?

[I thought to myself, “We are waiting for Godot”, and became more depressed because this would be a joke that my folks would never ever get…]

Me: Because I have been talking to you on the phone?

Mom: Oh. Ha ha. Remember to add an egg when you cook your Ramen noodles.

Me [Still wanting to die]: Ok. Bye mom.



So far in my luggages, there are FOUR Coach bags, 1 pair of Coach shoes, expensive eye cream, face lotion, anti-wrinkle lotion, unicorn magical hair to eliminate wrinkle from someone who’s almost 80, etc etc etc.

Why do I still feel guilty?

Why do I feel guilty that I did not goof off at school, drop out, work at some seedy places, meet rich older men, become their mistresses, bear boy children for them, become a lady of leisure so I can hang out all the time, and buy houses and cars for my parents?

Fuck. this. shit.




Alexandra December 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

Such good writing.

I could do this same thing…my mother covers everything up…all the jabs to the soul…with a “just need to laugh.”

No, after years of this, not funny.

Alexandra´s last blog post…Not A Time Nor A Season

Absence Alternatives December 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

Thanks. It’s nice to know that I am not overreacting…

secret agent woman December 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

I can understand that. I’ve (mostly) let go of the guilt.

I hope the trip goes well.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Out and about.

Absence Alternatives December 27, 2011 at 2:43 am

Thanks. On my way there. Waiting in Tokyo right now. Getting more and more anxious and excited. Maybe it’s a good thing I can only stay for 3 days each time.

Ameena December 24, 2011 at 10:07 am

Oh my. How I can relate. I think it’s a cultural thing you know? It’s like no matter what you do it’s never, ever good enough. Ever. And sometimes I give up trying! And then other days I realize I’m 35 years old and I need to live my life for me. And sometimes I’m successful. And sometimes, not so much.

I hope the trip is better than you think it’ll be. (I won’t say good because I’m way too realistic for that.)

Thinking of you! Relating to you! Happy Holidays my friend.
Ameena´s last blog post…mickey d’s

Absence Alternatives December 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

Thank you my dear! ((((Hugs)))) and happy holidays happy new year to you!!!

But u r so fucking outstanding how can ur mom complains about you???!!! Ugh. We are doomed…

Jack December 24, 2011 at 3:10 am

It could be nobody. Yet it could be everybody.
I really liked that line. Sorry, it is the writer in me. Anyway, if you move away from home you can’t win. There is always some kind of guilt involved.

I don’t know if that makes it any better or easier, but…
Jack´s last blog post…I Hate Toys That Make Noise

Absence Alternatives December 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

You are right. The day I got on the plane I’ve embarked on this guilt trip…

Thank you for the kind words. Coming from you they mean a lot.

Naptimewriting December 24, 2011 at 12:13 am

Read “You’re Wearing THAT?” subtitled something about women and their mothers. They mean well, mostly. But not entirely. We hear judgement where there is none. Mostly.

It’s a linguistic study of American mothers and their adult daughters but a lot will sound familiar.

But still, kill me if I have to hear another story about a friend’s daughter who is WAY better than me in something. Is there nothing of my mother’s day she’s like to share? Why always with the stories of other people’s grown daughters who are so successful?
Naptimewriting´s last blog post…‘Twas the day before the night before Christmas

Absence Alternatives December 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

With my mother it’s this frustration that sometimes she makes me feel that she’d rather I became some rich man’s mistress so I had the means to buy her shit. I know I am most likely being irrational and behaving like a spoiled brat, but… otherwise why would she be telling me so and so bought her mom this and that all the time? (Yes, there is a whole entire post on the peculiar social circles my family keeps…)

Absence Alternatives December 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

This is the reason why I don’t talk about my mother much. I do not wish to air dirty laundry… well, not more anyway…

Unknown Mami December 23, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I have a feeling the guilt would be there no matter what choices you would have made. My mother is good at bringing on the guilt as well.
Unknown Mami´s last blog post…Fragmented Fridays

Absence Alternatives December 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

I agree. And I watch myself so I don’t end up driving my kids away…

secret agent woman December 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Caller Id and an answering machine. Seriously. I virtually never answer the phone.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Out and about.

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I HAVE to answer the phone otherwise the guilt just eats away… What can I say? I do feel that I owe my parents a lot despite this post…

BigLittleWolf December 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Sort of chuckling. Sort of nodding. Holy Shit. Do my kids think this of me – already? Nah. They’re boys. And my own mother was so much like this that I’m not (I hope)… at least, not too much…

BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…Work of Art Season 2 Finale: Kymia Takes the Win!

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I do feel grateful sometimes that I only have boys…

Justine December 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Oh I so know the passive-aggressive shit. At least you get that over the phone. I have to live with it. Every day now… Sigh. Hugs my friend.
Justine´s last blog post…A lesson in perspective from my daughter’s three-year-old classmate

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I am going home after Christmas and will experience an intensive dose of everything for 3 days… 🙂 {{{hugs}}}

Tom G. December 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

If it’s any consolation, which it’s not, this is the same conversation that every child who has ever left home & their socio-economic place in the family ancestry behind for a life elswhere, has with their Mom. American, German, Chinese, Lebanese, Indian, passive aggressive Mother’s, like laughter, are the same in all languages.

However, this statement “You don’t need a subject when constructing a sentence in Chinese. IMO this greatly contributes to Chinese mothers’ passive aggressive ability because you never know whom they are referring to in their laments. It could be nobody. Yet it could be everybody.” makes me sooooooo happy my Mom does not speak Chinese.
Tom G.´s last blog post…Entropy

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Would have been quite spectacular if the mother were Catholic + Chinese, no? 😉

Kathy December 22, 2011 at 9:33 am

Good God, this resonates for me. This is true for so many of us in our relationships with our mothers. Good luck–and could I have one of those Coach bags?
Kathy´s last blog post…I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Extreme Gift-Wrapping with Trash

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

LOL about the Coach bags. Sorry, you have not guilt tripped me enough.

writerwoman61 December 22, 2011 at 9:15 am

I lived thousands of miles away from my mom for my whole adult life…I’m glad she never tried to make me feel guilty about it (even though I did – she was chronically ill, and I left it up to my brother to make sure she was okay).

I bet your mom brags about you all the time to her friends…you’re smart and funny and beautiful!

Have a wonderful holiday, Lin!

writerwoman61´s last blog post…And the Winner is…

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for the kind words. She does talk about me all the time, I think, but then again, she tells me about her friends’ children way too often…

TheKitchenWitch December 22, 2011 at 7:20 am

Ugh! That conversation sounds a lot like the conversations my husband has with his mother. Must be an Asian thing, that guilt-mongering.
TheKitchenWitch´s last blog post…Roasted Caprese Salad

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

My theory is that it started out as a byproduct of a patriarchal society: women get their positions in life from their MALE children. They sacrifice everything for the children and therefore there is this expectation…

Life in the Boomer Lane December 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

I thought I couldn’t love your posts more, but now I do. This gets to the heart of so much emotion/guilt so many of us carry around. My mom is long gone, the dynamics are completely different, yet this so resonates with me, thinking about some conversations I’ve had with my daughter in London. And I’m the silent one. The best writing there is teaches us more about ourselves than about the author or any fictional characters. Bravo. Oh, and then, please let future calls go to voice mail.
Life in the Boomer Lane´s last blog post…Take my knee. Please.

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words. xxoo

Nicole, the queen of this life December 22, 2011 at 6:48 am

I just love you. And I’m really glad that this seems to be a reoccurring theme amongst all of our mothers. Let’s make a deal to break the cycle and NOT do this to our children.
Nicole, the queen of this life´s last blog post…It’s not procrastinating. It’s Pinterest.

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Yes yes yes! I constantly remind myself and naturally I am scared to death that I’ll be just the same. I sometimes do remind myself of my mother…

Magpie December 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm

I both want to give you a hug and confess that I’m not always unhappy that my mother’s dead.
Magpie´s last blog post…Wrapping

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm


I am sorry…

Velva December 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Its good to know that mothers are more similar than different, no matter where you live.
Velva´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

That’s why I am also scared to death that I will be like this to my boys…

colleen December 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm

OMG, it is exactly like a conversation with my German mother-in-law. I cringe and feel your pain.
Please realize its not you, you are made of awesome. I have a theory about why they (mothers) do this, but am lazy and do not want to type it all in your comments 😉
Remember, Made.Of.Awesome = You

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I would LOVE to hear your theory (better know it well so I can watch myself and not turn into THAT…) When could you become un-lazy? LOL. 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂

Irene December 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Do you have an answering machine?

I would start employing that. Turn the cell off.

And don’t feel guilty. You have a life of your own.

She means well.
Irene´s last blog post…15 Statements I Will Never Say

Absence Alternatives December 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I try and tell myself that every time but of course this guilt thing is like innate to the Chinese genes or something…

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: